Putin’s believed strategic goals of preventing further NATO expansion, of reversing Russian decline and re-establishing its position as the pre-eminent hegemonic power in Europe have failed. His unprovoked attack on Ukraine has backfired in the most spectacular way – even if the Russian military somehow turns around its current debacle.
The reason? His decision to invade Ukraine has pushed the famously neutral, militarily unaligned nation of Finland to ask for membership of NATO. This is a nation that, for decades, has scrupulously maintained its neutrality with overwhelming public support for this policy despite its 1,340km border with Russia and history marred by wars against and subjugation by Russia.
But now this has changed. Finland’s policy towards NATO membership has shifted and its politicians have responded with commendable speed. Even its more Russophile politicians, including the current Foreign Minister, Pekka Haavisto, acknowledge that the geopolitical and domestic situation has changed following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and it is the right choice to join NATO. It is expected that the parliamentary vote on applying for NATO will be passed without any difficulty.
There is no question that Finland’s coming application will not be accepted, especially after NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Finland would be “warmly welcomed” and the process would be “smooth and swift”. We must remember that Finland regularly conducts joint exercises with NATO forces.
Any democratic nation deciding to sign up for NATO and passing the required criteria should be celebrated. After all, the alliance is the main guarantor of peace in the Western Hemisphere and the reason that Europe has not sparked another World War. If more nations join the defensive alliance, it means that wars become less and less likely. By joining together in NATO we are stronger, safer and better equipped to face the challenges of rogue nations and actors that seek to destroy and undermine us.
Finland has much to offer NATO as a full member in expertise, materiel and manpower. It is perhaps one of the most prepared nations in the world for conflict, with its “total defence model” allowing it to react quickly to any aggression as well as to multiply its capabilities far beyond its standing forces.
However, we must never be complacent in our defence and security – both domestically and in support of our allies. Another unforeseen result of Russia’s unprovoked aggression is that it has finally sparked some recognition in Europe of the problem of relying on a foreign nation of delinquent behaviour for its energy supplies.
For too long, European nations have been complicit in Russia’s barbarism by blindly paying for Russian energy no matter what reprehensible actions Putin’s government got up to. So, while I am glad that things are changing (still too slowly in some countries) it is a disgrace that it took Ukraine being invaded for some politicians to wake up. This invasion could have been avoided. Without European funding, the Russian economy would be in ruins and without a dependence on Russian energy influencing politicians, Ukraine’s accession to either the EU or NATO might have already been completed.
That is the past now though. We must look to the future, and ensure that this tragedy can never happen again.